Tag Archives: journal

A new journal concept – Plos ONE launches

Plos ONE, the radical new journal concept (see my16 July blog) has launched. Eric Kansa, , in his Digging Digitally archaeology blog, has this to say:

…PLoS One represents an experiment in a lot of ways. Papers are more clearly part of an ongoing process of communication and discussion and are less like static artifacts. Evaluation and review continue well after initial public dissemination. And in PLoS One, the community is invited to add value to papers through “Web 2.0″ collaborative tools…

Drawing value from user interaction and making users more than consumers of information but inviting them to be participants in creating valuable knowledge sounds like a great approach. It has been widely successful in several high-profile commercial sites, such as Flickr (tagged photos) and Del.ic.ious (tagged web content)….The uptake of these community-participatory (“Web 2.0”) approaches is relatively limited in academic and professional communication (though see Connotea). I doubt this has much to do with technophobia as it much as it has to do with the special social, incentive and professional needs of scholars. If PLoS One can help figure out how to motivate professional communities to use participatory tools that add value to scientific communication, I think they will have made a fundamentally important contribution.

(Thanks to Peter Suber’s Open Access Newsletter for this link)

Through the looking glass? Scholarly publishing seen from the South-eastern frontier

I have given a couple of workshop papers on scholarly publishing in the last ten days or so. Sounds dry, doesn’t it? That might apply to one of those ‘How to crack the system and get published in an accredited scholarly journal’ papers that I think my audiences were expecting (and dreading). But if one casts a steely eye over the system that we all take so unquestioningly for granted, then things can get a lot livelier. What would the proverbial woman from Mars make of it? The basis of the academic accreditation system is that our scholars are assessed and promoted primarily according to their ability to get published in journals in other countries, whose systems are patently weighted to exclude them – and to exclude many of the burning issues that might be of national relevance.

Looking at the scholarly publishing system from the perspective of a scholar in the humanities and social sciences in a South African university, one thing is for sure – we really are on the margins of the world. This is not a system conceived of for the benefit of our developing world, but designed to suit the needs of powerful institutional and hard-nosed commercial interests in big first-world economies. If one looks dispassionately at what the universities put into this system and what they get out of it, it is patently dysfunctional. Scholars pay for conducting the research, writing the articles, for acting as peer reviewers, then pay page charges, as often as not, to get published. Then the universities buy back that information, often at vastly inflated prices, from near-monopoly conglomerates, operating a commercial system in which market forces don’t work.

The way we relate to the system has its absurdities. We bind ourselves into trying to publish primarily in journals selected by indexing systems that explicitly marginalise contributions from the peripheries of the world, where we live. Also, as a CSIR researcher pointed out in one of last week’s workshops, the numbers just don’t work: “There are a thousand-odd researchers in the CSIR”, he said, “and we are each required to publish two articles per year in accredited journals. Where are we going to find accredited journals to publish more than two thousand articles from the CSIR alone? And who is going to read them?”

The scholarly publishing system is not working even in the powerful knowledge economies that call the shots. As the leading radical IP lawyer, James Boyle, said at the iCommons Summit in Rio, “We have a scientific publishing system that is massively dysfunctional and really, really broken.” Or, as Lindsay Waters, the Humanities Editor at Harvard University Press put it in one of his papers; “The patient is dying! Call the ambulance.”

So where does that leave us, here in South Africa? And what can we do about it?

Journal Publishing Gets a Makeover at the iCommons Summit

At the iCommons Summit in Rio in late June, copyright scholar James Boyle, author of some remarkably incisive critiques of copyright conventions, put it in a nutshell – “We have a scientific publishing system’, he said, ‘that is massively dysfunctional and really, really broken.’ If that is the case in the USA, how much more so in South Africa, where scholarly publishing of any description struggles to survive in what is a really, really marginal market? We need to ask ourselves, therefore, whether we are capable of taking up the challenge put out by our Brazilian hosts at the conference, to take a leap from the 19th century to the 21st, thinking of ourselves in the developing world as capable of being in the front line of new approaches. Gilberto Gil, the Brazilian Minister of Culture, said in his opening address: “The player who today loses can become the winner. Everything changes, all the time. And only those who understand change can conquer victory, or yet, victories, which are always partial.’

So what are the new developments that emerged at the Summit, at least in relation to scholarly publishing? It is now well established that Open Access publishing increases citation rates, sometimes dramatically, particularly in developing countries. For example, Subbiah Arunachalam said that going OA had radically increased the impact and reach of a number of Indian journals, with the Journal of Public Medicine now getting over 1 million hits a year. OA, he said, is a way of getting local and relevant knowledge disseminated, too, as it can also dissipate local boundaries.

But now Open Access journal publishing is moving into version 2.0 at the Public Library of Science (PLOS). PLOS ONE has a number of radical new features, built, around an understanding of the potential that can be unleashed if one takes full advantage of what the networked environment can offer. It will be launched later this year, as an inclusive peer reviewed publication that blurs the boundaries between the different scientific fields. Rather than regarding a journal article as being ‘some form of absolute truth’, PLOS One will be set up for ongoing debate and discussion and will also allow for interactive development of online papers, building on conclusions and strengthening data. Most strikingly, it will allow for publication within weeks of acceptance, with open and continuous peer
review happening in the open, after publication.

There is enormous discussion going on around journals and scholarly publishing and there might well be batter alternatives to the way we do things. With the Academy of Science’s major review of journal publishing in South Africa newly published, is it not time to open up the discussion here?